Yes, we have quirky personalities, can name molecular weights for all the elements on the periodic table, and take pride in our perfectly starched lab coats, but those aren’t the misconceptions I’m thinking of. I am talking about the stories told around office water coolers, and in company lunch-rooms. In my previous article, “8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Working in QA,” I compared the QA pros of the world to the soccer referee who ensures that all regulations are followed. Unfortunately, much like soccer referees, we often hear some of the most vile and hateful comments about being members of the QA team.
Here are some examples:
We are NOT Team Players
I find this one quite comical because every time there is something wrong with the product, the QA teams get the raw end of the deal. “Why can’t you just be a team player.” Yeah, well that would mean I would compromise my ethics. I feel like I have to keep reminding people that the QA/QC Department does NOT produce any actual food product. As QA’s we have to “Assure” that the safety and quality of a food product is “In Spec,” and meets both regulatory and client requirements. I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing many heated “debates” over what should be done with a certain bad product. Sometimes it is just about how to communicate to our biggest customer that their shipment is NOT going to be delivered at a crucial time. On the flip side of that coin, consider this a favor: Your QA team just helped that customer stay in business for many more years vs. just “Shipping Out” a potentially fatal product!
QA Doesn’t Add ANY Value
I wish that I could say I made up what I am about to write--The story goes a bit like this: Many years ago, in a company far far away, as I was working as the QA Laboratory Manager, I was approached by my company’s head of corporate engineering. A respected engineer, and supposed exemplar of the code of ethics, wanted to sit down with me in my office for a “one-on-one” talk. I could see that he was visibly upset over something, however I just wasn’t sure what about…and then he dropped the bomb on me behind closed doors. With a rather direct approach he told me: “No QA Department ever added any value to any company. To be honest, they just suck up money and space. If I could I could replace your whole team with robots or trained monkeys, I‘d do it first thing tomorrow.”
I did manage to ask Monty Burns there one question: “If you hired monkeys, which one of them is going to talk to the clients, conduct research studies, handle audits, recalls, conduct employee trainings, manage pest control, create HACCP plans, and all the other things we do on a daily basis?”
Needless to say, he couldn’t answer my question.
So what do I consider value added work?
Let me state this clearly: I don’t care if you are the Bathroom Janitor, Production Operator, Engineer, QA, or CEO. You have a job to do, and you are expected to perform it to the best of your ability. Without you, we wouldn’t have normal operation. Just like a well-experienced QA Manager, every employee’s expertise and specialty can get us to the next level, ALWAYS increasing the “Value” of our company.